The Return of Reform | Bleader

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Return of Reform

Posted By on 08.24.10 at 12:34 PM

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Recently a friend in the publishing industry was discussing books with me. I told him I was going to send him a proposal for a book that was just HISTORY IS A WHEEL printed on a hardback cover with no pages or spine. Rich Miller:

Lots of people are having trouble getting their heads around the fact that Republican state Sen. Bill Brady may well be our next governor. This is, after all, a Democratic state.

But it's way past time to consider Brady a very real, even likely probability.

I'm not sure why this would be at all surprising. Since 1941, Illinois has had six Republican governors and five Democratic governors, and one of those Dems was a brief appointment (Samuel Shapiro, who governed for less than a year after taking Otto Kerner's place). And, lest we forget, the only Democratic governor since the 70s was aided by calls for... um... reform. Here's how the Sun-Times endorsed Blago back in 2002*:

Gov. Ryan's controversial clemency hearings for Death Row inmates made it impossible for Jim Ryan to extricate himself from the lingering problems of the past ... Blagojevich, on the other hand, offers youth, a fresh face and a clear break with the past ... Rod Blagojevich will usher in a new era in state government, and after all the scandal and acrimony of recent years, we are eager to see it.

I think that what we tend to think of as partisan political ideologies have less effect on gubernatorial elections than is sometimes assumed, largely because some of the most divisively partisan national issues—abortion, foreign policy, federal spending, Supreme Court appointments—are mostly out of the hands of governors. My reddish home state, Virginia, has had in my lifetime a tendency to mix moderate Democratic governors (Robb, Wilder, Warner, Kane) with conservative Republicans (Bob McDonnell and the odious George Allen, though Jim Gilmore was comparatively moderate). It's much more of a managerial position, which emphasizes competence over ideological vision.

Brady has the advantage of seeming like he can tie his own shoes, which goes a long way. Or, as Miller puts it, "it occurred to me as I watched Quinn's speech at the Illinois State Fair's Governor's Day event that the guy wouldn't recognize a campaign theme if it was bleeding to death on his front lawn."

* To the Tribune editorial page's credit, their opposition to Blagojevich was not unprescient:

Blagojevich ran a campaign that was long on spending promises and short on evidence that he has the discipline to steer the state out of a budget gap that could be as high as $2.5 billion.

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